Hello Sweet Friends.
I know it’s been a few weeks since I have visited with you. This Lent has brought some challenges to my family and when you are giving all you have to love those closest to you, the words you want to share with the world are harder to come up with it.
How are y’all doing? How is your Lent going? Two weeks you guys. Easter is in two weeks!!
That’s just insane isn’t it?
I was doing pretty well with my Lenten plan until last week and the bottom seemed to fall out. We received some rather distressing news that required a few days to process. Not to worry, everyone is fine and we will make it through. God has always been so faithful in his provision for our family and I have no doubt He will rise to the occasion yet again.
I should have known something was coming, since I was scheduled to travel to Austin, Texas on Thursday to speak at the Blessed is She “BELOVED” retreat.
I have learned that when preparing for one of these speaking events, the spiritual warfare in my house ticks up several notches as the deceiver tries to get me so distracted that I cannot hear the Holy Spirit through all the noise of worry and conflict. Knowing this, I try to do my best to spend even more time in prayer and Adoration strengthening my spiritual muscles for the battle ahead.
When you bring women together to praise and worship with the King of Kings, Satan does his best to disrupt and confuse.
But God had the last laugh this past weekend and it was glorious.
Based on the book by Henri Nouwen “The Life of the Beloved”, the retreat contains four talks on being a chosen daughter of the king, receiving the blessing of God, the art of brokenness and given in love. I was humbled to be asked to give the final talk of the retreat “Given” leading into Adoration.
Yep, they wanted me to be the closer. No pressure. I can do this she says as she curls up in a ball in the corner of a room rocking back and forth wondering what they were thinking.
I wrote at least four different versions of my talk before I flew out on Thursday and I knew in my gut I wasn’t where the Holy Spirit needed me to be yet. I didn’t really know where the talk was going and not having a final draft was beginning to make me feel a little panicked but I hugged my hubby and got on the plane anyway.
My sweet and wonderful friend Kathryn hosted me and the rest of the retreat team in her home for three days. She is a rock star and if you aren’t following her on instagram or her blog, then run right now and go do that. Kathryn is the hostess with the mostest. Her charism of hospitality is an extension of her deep and abiding faith in God. Her husband Scott shares equally in this charism. For example, neither of them drink coffee, but they knew that I did. Each morning Scott would go down to the corner store and fetch 16 ounces of love. Just because. I mean for reals y’all?? Ah-may-zing! My gratitude to Kathryn for her encouragement and prayer support over the last two years runs deep in my heart. Deep in the heart of Texas, deep. She is authentic, and kind, and willingly meets you where you are. She sits with you in the mess and the muck that life has brought forth. She’s a keeper even if she is a huge fan Dr. Pepper. I’ll forgive her.
There was spectacular BBQ at Stiles Switch and a Trashy Trailer Park Taco at Torchy’s Tacos. I die. The food was so good and the company even better. The team spent Friday setting up the space at St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Austin. What a beautiful place to worship! So welcoming and generous. Kathryn put together a rock star team of local women to assist with the retreat and man did they knock it out of the park. These women know how to serve with humility and grace. I learned what Texas hospitality looks like first hand. Y’all do it well down South. Really, really well.
Friday afternoon I was able to slip away and do a favor for one of my favorite people on the planet. I had the privilege of speaking to the eighth graders at Holy Family Catholic School. So much fun. Sr. Maria Fatima, a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is a long time reader and prayer supporter whom I have wanted to meet for years. God answered that prayer during this trip to Austin and I am so grateful for it.
I spoke about my sweet Courtney and the dignity of the human person. I told them that we all have a job do do for God, and no one can do anyone else’s job. No one is disposable. Everyone is broken whether we can see it or not. I was very touched by their hugs and sweet comments afterward. Courtney’s legacy of love continues to grow and that makes my heart smile.
Saturday brought over 200 women together and it was inspiring to witness.
Sr. Maria Fatima, Beth and Cana spoke with such grace and conviction that comes with living the life of the beloved. The attendees were stirred and the Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable in the room. The praise and worship was intense with Shannon leading us with her gentle and grounded spirit. I know that Jenna was moved to see how these women arrived ready to experience the love of their Beloved Lord and boy did he show up in a HUGE way. Blessed is She’s ministry continues to grow as the Spirit leads, and I am humbled to be a very small part of that.
Throughout Saturday I experienced many small beautiful moments in the corners of the room with women who shared their hearts bravely with me as we held one another and prayed together. I am always surprised with how God uses me at these events. It’s always in the shadows where grief and suffering are laid bare, and love and encouragement freely given. I am so humbled to have been available to meet these women in their need, and minister to them. They were so willing to go deep quickly, allowing the love of Christ to be received in such powerful ways.
I get very emotional writing those words. It was deeply powerful to witness the healing power of a hug, a smile or a prayer whispered. God is so good. So very good.
Even though I was happy to be present to these women and minister to them, my mind kept going back to my talk which was still incomplete. All day long, I felt a rising wave of panic begin to come over me. I had not received the final words for my talk from the Big Guy Upstairs and by the time we were at Mass, about two hours prior to my introduction, I was feeling a tightness in my chest and a pounding pain in between my shoulder blades. I was in trouble and I knew it.
Standing in the back of the church during Mass, next to Sr. Maria Fatima, who had taken over holding all the babies so a few Mamas could pray for a few moments without squirming, I shared my fear. She straight up hit me with the Holy Spirit. “Maybe you should renounce the lie that everything depends on you.”
BAM! How do you like that truth bomb?
It doesn’t all depend on me…
I closed my eyes and repeated her words. “I renounce the lie that everything depends on me, Lord. Come Holy Spirit please come and give me the words you need these women to hear.” My hands were shaking and the tightness in my chest was still there but I felt like I could breathe again. I entered fully into the Mass and received some consolation from Our Lord during Communion. I just kept breathing knowing that whatever words would come, they were going to be powerful. That my only job was to listen to what Jesus whispered into my heart and speak it boldly to these women.
I ate a quick salad after Mass and headed to the tabernacle. On my way my friend Heather texted me “Not to worry. You are child of God. Just walk in faith.” I texted her back that He had better show up soon because I was beginning to flip out. I desperately needed to spend time in quiet and I was trying my damnedest to not lose my mind. I just kept breathing in and out and found myself on my knees begging God for the words. I knew what I was supposed to talk about. I knew my story and Courtney’s impact on my soul and how she taught me to love. I knew what my role was for the conference but I still felt like I didn’t have the right words and the time for my talk was racing toward me like a freight train. I knelt before the tabernacle I began to shake.
As I begged God to reveal what He needed me to say to the women, three of the most fabulous humans came to my rescue. They became the voice of God to me in that moment. First sweet Cana, who had spoken so many truths earlier in the day when she gave the “Blessed” talk. She placed her hand on my back and just began to pray. She encouraged me and told me that God was looking down on me as His child. “Just take His hand and walk with Him.” she said in her sweet Mama voice.
I took another deep breath and pictured just that. I was walking with God, hand in hand. Then I realized Heather had just texted me that. What the heck was happening here?
Cana went into silent prayer. I just held onto the marble ledge of the Tabernacle. I held on like a little child holding on to the Father’s hands. Then I felt a different hand on my right shoulder. Shannon, our fearless praise and worship leader with the voice of an angel, began to pray aloud. What a gift to be surrounded by these incredible women of faith and they were lifting me to the Father in their kindness and mercy.
I just kept my hands on the marble and my eyes on the Tabernacle. What happened next makes me smile thinking about it now, four days later. Shannon spoke with strength and wisdom “Mary, God wants you to know that you are his child. He loves you. He is with you and he will give you whatever you need.”
Hadn’t Cana and Heather just said the same thing? Shannon wasn’t even in the room then. She had not read my phone either. How could she know what was said? My whole body began to shake and I almost collapsed in front of the Tabernacle. I didn’t know what to do.
What do I do God?
God heard my questions and not knowing what was flying through my brain, Shannon spoke “God wants you to know there is nothing you need to do. Just listen to His voice and speak the truth with love.”
Oh.Sweet.Lord. You are here. Right here. With me? Me? I’ll say whatever you want. Just give me the words. Just give.me.the.words.
As tears streamed down my face, I felt a strong hand squeeze my shoulder just like my Dad used to do when he was trying to be encouraging. I startled and looked up into Sister Maria Fatima’s beautiful face and knew my Dad was present through this Dominican sister. A Dominican like my Great-Aunt Sister Jude Thaddeus. My Dad had told me many stories about my Great Aunt and her boldness in teaching and speaking love to those who crossed her path.
Sweet Moses how was I supposed to give a talk after all of this? How was I going to even stand up? With help of course. Sister helped me to my feet, hugged me like my mama used to when I was small and then we proceeded into the chapel to do the work I had flown to Austin to do.
What happened you ask? What words did I use? Did it land on fertile ground? Did I pass out?
I do remember that as I spoke of my Courtney and the lessons loving her taught me there was brightness to the room, and I became very passionate about encouraging these beautiful women to go and love in all the broken places. It’s there where God’s love is needed most. It’s in our homes with our kids and co-workers. Just go love where you are, right now.
Other than that, I don’t have any memory of what I said except I said “boobs” twice (in a chapel, looking at the crucifix. Sweet Molly! My mother would be horrified) and I made a gesture toward the end of the talk that apparently looked like I was giving birth. Oh yeah…so humbling.
After I finished we went straight into Adoration and there was no time to re-hash anything or ask anyone if it was OK. I look back and I know now that that’s exactly what God needed to happen for me to place myself in front Him in the monstrance, giving him ALL my insecurities and I remember praying “I did my best God. I know it wasn’t perfect but it came from my heart and I think it’s what you wanted me to share.” I knelt before the Lord and gave it all back to Him. My hands raised in praise I remember one lyric of the song “It is Well” that we sang during Adoration.
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well
It is well
Mountains y’all. How many mountains have we put in front of ourselves blocking our view of the Cross? How many times have we talked ourselves out of trusting God with what He needed us to do? Shoot people, God spoke to me in Oregon six months ago and said Go Mary. Spread the legacy of love and tell the world about the dignity of life. Speak Courtney’s truth for all to hear and I still struggle with it.
How many times have we talked ourselves out of trusting God with what He needed us to do? #beloved
I have heard from many of the attendees since then and I guess what the Holy Spirit placed on my heart to share was powerful and touched them deeply. Thank you God for using me to speak your words. Thank you God for placing your trust in me to love no matter how afraid I may be of failing. Thank you God for loving me out of my fear.
The lesson here is I am not alone. God goes before me leading me, holding my hand like a good and gentle Father, making sure I know I will never be abandoned. He brings healing and grace to my inner most wounds allowing me to go out and speak the truth of that love to any and all who wish to listen and to those who don’t I can simply love.
That speaks louder than words anyway. My Courtney taught me that.
God is so very good. ALL the time.
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